(the misadventures of an expatriate corporate dropout)

Monday, May 26, 2008

trip down memory lane.

During my recent KZT battle, I came across an old journal of mine. I'm pretty good at starting journals and never finishing them. I'm not sure if it is because I lose them or because I lose them on purpose. This particular journal was begun in 2001 and has entries through 2003. There are less than a couple of dozen entries. Most of my journals are from old library book covers bound to blank pages. This one happens to be entitled Life in the Making.

It was interesting to read my ramblings from then, a mixture of journalling, travel writing, sketches and a variety of writing exercises. What happened to the woman that used to do that? I am desperately seeking to find her again.

I think I've tended to use journals when I'm skeetering on the edge. the edge of what you inquire? meh. the edge of depression. the edge of impulsiveness. the edge of the reason. you know. all that deep kind of stuff. This particular journal was a point of taking stock and how to move forward, as well as what to move towards.

Interspersed throughout the journal are references to moving abroad. Notes to self to follow-up on aspects of how to make it happen. and a couple of lists. This was the period where I really became serious about a major life change. I speak of my fear of repeating the mistakes of my ... well let's just say my elders and leave it at that. In this journal, I speak of feeling the physical impact of living a false life. Of carrying the impact like a heavy burden. The false life of knowing many things I desired to do but not taking the initiative to do them. After berating myself a bit for this, I decide to remind myself of ... (list edited somewhat)

"List 1 - Accomplishments

1. survived a childhood filled with alcohol, rage, every kind of abuse, chaos and religious fanaticism.
2. did not pass on alcholism, chaos, any kind of abuse or religious fanaticism to my kids.
3. survived and prospered past early widowhood.
4. climbed high on the corporate ladder minus a great education.
5. raised 2 incredibly amazing and beautiful kids to successful adulthood."

Yes, I survived and accomplished these things (amongst others), but I battle on regarding another list of unresolved issues... perhaps to be covered in the future. Here are some other quoted passages from this journal that remain meaningful to me.

"When I say I fear I'm headed down the path of (sic) my elders and living a false life, I mean that there are so many other paths I wish to choose but as of yet remain stuck in the rut of corporate stupidity and material pursuit. I want to break out but fear reels me in. I claim to write, to have had that desire since childhood and yet do I take appropriate action? I want to see faraway lands, to travel continuously and write about my experiences and yet fear of losing perceived security and status leaves me paralyzed, unable to act. Will I end up like my elders, complaining but taking no action?"

"List 2 - things I say I want (will I act and work to achieve them?)

1. take steps to become a writer; writing daily, take a class
2. study French, history, literature, art
3. set a firm date to leave corporate america
4. cease purchasing useless items and save as much as possible
5. accept myself, flaws and all
6. take steps to improve my health.
7. pursue new interests instead of talking about them
8. increase philanthropy
9. figure out the mother/daughter thing and the daughter/mother thing
10. establish a French home and new lifestyle
11. try again for a healthy relationship ... "

I often joke about fearmongers stealing years of my life. But, to a large extent, I allowed that to happen. My fears rendered me paralyzed and stuck for a long time. Americans in particular are inculturated with a consumeristic, fearful nature. A society driven by money. Where your worth is likely boiled down to a 3 digit FICO score. We spend our lives striving for titles. For income levels. For possessions. We live to work. We defer happiness and pursuit of our desires, defer them for "retirement", save for our "old age". We do this in a society that provides false succor for our worries. Buy another item. Live in a better neighborhood. Drive a better car. Be responsible. Homeland Security Alert Orange. War(s) on Terror. Inflation. Recession. We look around and see the castoffs of society, living on the street. We inure ourselves to their existence. Or live in fear of joining them.

So, back to list 2. The latest date I could ascribe to this list would be 2003. In the ensuing five years, I have accomplished about half of the goals.

The most recent on the list is living abroad, or attempting it. I battle daily the fear of having made a wrong decision. Having given up status and perceived accomplishment. I think this is one reason the book and theses presented by Tim Ferriss in The 4-Hour Workweek have rung so true for me. He speaks of this fear that runs rampant in our society. and of real lives deferred for an unpromised future.

This change is really hard for me and I haven't even begun the biggest part of it yet. It makes me afraid. and anxious. and worried. But I make myself look at what I have conquered and overcome this far in life. I realize it also makes me excited. and hopeful. and determined. And I talk myself down from the edge.

I'm picking up my written journal to complement this virtual one. I find I need those conversations as an outlet as well. It is a boon to have found other voices out there, attempting the same path of sorts.

Here's a quote of my own from this rediscovered journal. Seems very appropos.

I wish I could say that a series of epiphanies have provided me with the blueprint for a new life. That I have the secret formula and ingredients to share with all of you. Some meaty insight on how to break through. or survive. Throughout my life, people have joked that Kim is great at making chicken salad out of chicken shit. Basically, what I can tell you that has gotten me through is this. You just have to keep showing up.


La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: First, let me say, I love the courage and the honesty of this post and the way it blew my socks off. I am a on and off journal with a penchant for the list---so you are talking my language.

I have been thinking a lot about the fearmongers, as my own inner fearmongers have a lot to say about us picking up and moving to France in our 40's. I want you to know that your post went a long way in shutting up the FM in me. Merci, JNRR! Really great post---the kind that will stay with me all day. :-)

Je ne regrette rien said...

lbr-thank you ... that wasn't easy to write. I had to edit it a few rounds so as not to expose certain persons or sensitive happenings from my life. For now, the goriest details remain in my book journals. I'm gratified that it resonated with you ... either I'm not crazy or at least I'm in good company with my craziness ...smile. I really do appreciate the feedback. This goes back to some comments/posts exchanged recently about the blogs about personal vs. chirpy travel info only and how to achieve the right mix and balance so as not to scare the readers away! thanks again, kim

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: I am never scared away by honest and authentic writing that is personal and yet transcends the personal. I, personally, am bored to tears by chirpy travel writing. If I wanted to read an objective look at French travel I would read Fodors or Frommers. You know what I mean?

In this post-modern age we all know that there is an "I" behind every piece of writing. And, I prefer to see the"I" than to have it obfuscated. It takes courage to put ourselves in our writing--but that is what makes it so great and so human.

Okay, I am getting off my soap box now. Anyways, I too am happy to be in such good company with the crazy.;-D Great post, JNRR!

Stacey said...

Love this! I don't have much to say (at least not here,) except that you know how I feel at least about how "things" and fear can drag one down.

Don't know if people need the "secret formula"- but that moment when people pull their head out of the sand and take a look around is pretty amazing.

Je ne regrette rien said...

thanks Stacey!

Lotta said...

you are amazing.

Je ne regrette rien said...

lotta-oh my! that is something, wow. thanks so much.

Expatbrit said...

A really wonderful posting.

We become enclosed by so many boxes in life. Worse, we become comfortable with the boxes, their sides give us somewhere to rest our heads so we don't have to use them. Just go with what "society" tells us is the way to live. Be a good "consumer", a "productive" member of "society", blah blah.

A book I can now recommend (having almost finished it) is "Vagabonding" by Rolf Potts. Some of your journal extract is right along the lines of what he writes about: a shedding of fear bonds to follow a deliberated course of long-term travel.

I think it's much like The Four Hour Work Week: even if you only apply some of what is in the book (which is likely all I will do!), it will have a profound effect on your life. At the very least, it will present a different way of thinking about life!

Je ne regrette rien said...

EPB-why thanks and thanks~ will definitely check out the book. love the comment re: boxes and head...very true indeed.

Je ne regrette rien said...

LBR-I like you on your soapbox. It makes your legs seem even longer and slimmer! ha.

Je ne regrette rien said...

oh and EPB-I've been emailing you to no avail. did I mess up your address or are you sending me a subtle clue? lol

La Belette Rouge said...

JNRR: With each post I love you more. And, now you go and say I look taller and thinner. Can I make you a cupcake or something?;-)

Expatbrit said...

The subtle clue is that I don't check my email enough....lol

I received your messages of the 24th and today. Will respond soon...promise!

La Framéricaine said...

Simply, simply beautiful!

Just keep showing up... Did you do EST? I love that line. It's the only way I have lasted 11 years at my current job.

Are you sure that you didn't have an older sister who was fostered out of your family? I lived in that same family, I'm sure, but it was areligious in the Bible Belt, rather than fanatical. Where did you grow up again?;>)

Don't you worry, I'll keep showing up just to read more posts like this one! You are writing and I'm pleased to be reading it.


Je ne regrette rien said...

merci, madame! sounds like we have a lot to catch up on! A friend of mine told me that bit about my approach to life ..."kim, you just keep showing up." for me, that is how to get through. no personal experience with est, but familiarity. t'is a California thing! and me being a Californian .... smile.